From dry storage to logistics and
supply chain management

DSC’s history begins in 1960 with an idea about how a business could serve its customers better. Jim McIlrath founded Dry Storage Corporation in Chicago, Illinois, to provide “common” or “dry” storage to customers who needed more than cold storage. Following entry into the transportation business in 1965, Dry Storage became an established public warehousing and trucking business, assisting a multitude of customers with their distribution needs. Jim McIlrath continued to grow the business by expanding into new regions of the country and acquiring new companies.

In the years between 1960 and 1990, Dry Storage expanded services and geographies, adding new warehousing locations, high-cube/high-density warehouses and customer-specific warehouses, and developing transportation services and contract operations. A forerunner to fulfillment, National Pick N Pack, a Logistics Center focused on efficiently processing small parcel shipments and managing thousands of SKUs, was created in 1985.

The acquisition of Gulf-Atlantic in 1986 gave Dry Storage Corporation more than a regional presence, with new operations in Dallas, Atlanta, Charlotte and New Orleans. In 1989, the company headquarters opened in Des Plaines, Illinois. By the early 1990s, DSC had a national presence and was the parent to 22 separate companies—all with unique identities and images in the marketplace.

A time of transformation
Jim McIlrath’s daughter, Ann Drake, became a member of the Advisory Board of Directors in 1985, and joined the company as executive vice president in 1990. In this role, Ann had responsibility for strategic planning and corporate culture. She was named Chief Executive Officer of Dry Storage Corporation in 1994. That year, she worked to consolidate all 22 companies into one entity—with one name and identity: DSC Logistics. The new identity symbolized DSC’s company-wide emphasis on integrated logistics services and consistency across the network and operations. Under Ann’s leadership in the early 1990s, DSC Logistics grew to both coasts, providing nationwide service to customers.

Also in 1994, to help customers achieve their goals in the ever-changing and unpredictable business environment, DSC Logistics adopted a sense-and-respond transformational strategy, structure and culture to enable the company to anticipate, understand and make the most of change. With sense-and-respond, DSC can solve customer problems, adapt supply chain solutions and deploy resources where and when customers need them.

The second half of the 1990s was an especially busy and productive time for DSC Logistics. While helping existing customers and new customers start up new operations, the company developed a start-up methodology and operations support organization. In 1995, DSC expanded into nationwide contract packaging and in 1997 opened a next generation Logistics Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. DSC initiated company-wide consistency using process management, followed by the development of system-based modeling capabilities with LogicTools, in 1998. In 1999, DSC achieved the first of several ISO 9000 designations. That year, DSC also created the National Service Center and implemented i2’s Transportation Management System (TMS) to streamline transportation management.

Realizing that customers’ needs were growing more and more complex, Ann Drake and her leadership team developed the DSC Partnership Process to facilitate collaboration between DSC and customers as the supply chain is being designed, integrated, managed, and adapted. She fostered the creation of strong Customer Care and Customer Consistency teams to help reduce costs, improve service, transform business processes, and facilitate growth and change.

A new era
In the 21st century, DSC entered a new era of logistics and supply chain management. The company formed the Supply Chain Solutions Group, a team that leads the development of unique, creative solutions to help customers achieve their business goals. In 2001, DSC launched ASK!, a tool to provide enterprise-wide Supply Chain Visibility via the Internet, enabling customers as well as DSC to track—in near real-time—order status and inventory quantities. That same year, the company initiated a pilot of KeyPAD, which puts a summary-level view of the enterprise—by Logistics Center and by customer—on the executive’s desktop. In 2004, DSC developed a “next generation” 1.1 million square foot Logistics Center at the huge future-facing CenterPoint Intermodal Park near Joliet, Illinois, to serve customers using multiple modes of transportation, especially when shipping Asian goods from the west coast to points east. Also in 2004, DSC was certified by the Women’s Business Development Center and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council as a Women’s Business Enterprise.

Another productive year, 2001, included development of the MOST (Multi-Vendor Optimization Strategy) consolidation program and Wal-Mart’s endorsement of DSC as a 3rd Party Consolidator. Continuing to expand international services, DSC was certified as a Foreign Trade Zone at the Chicagoland Logistics Center at Joliet.

For a number of years, a leadership selection, training and development process had been used by DSC to develop proactive leaders who are specialists in all aspects of the supply chain and skilled in managing business processes. Since 2005, additional employee development programs have been instituted at all levels of the organization. One of these is Leading a READY! Workforce, designed to develop strong operational leaders. An onboarding process helps prepare new members of our workforce and increases employee engagement and retention.

Placing a high priority on continual improvement, DSC launched APEX (Achieving Performance Excellence), a process that provides a methodology for good ideas to become best practices. As part of APEX, DSC developed POP (Performance Optimization Process) through which managers can monitor and improve employee productivity.

In the area of Information Technology, DSC's acquired expertise with RedPrairie, so customers now have the benefit not only of DSC proprietary Warehouse Management System, but also the option of the RedPrairie system.

Value-added services and expertise in Health Care
Beginning in the 1990s, DSC devoted extra effort to building and strengthening capabilities in the areas of value-added services and health care. Since 2005, focus on these areas has resulted in both becoming core specialties. In 2010, DSC is performing a range of value-added services -- such as packaging, display building, and light assembly -- on-site in the Logistics Centers. The benefit to customers is a reduction in the potential time, expense, and possible damage involved in moving products outside the Logistics Center to a co-packer. In addition to the usual types of value-added services, DSC has engineered and performed some highly-specialized tasks, including drum drilling for a musical instrument customer, operating an isolated production area for a consumer products company, and running an automated shrink wrap tunnel.

DSC’s experience in the Health Care field dates back to the early 1990s when customers included several companies involved in health care supplies and medical devices. In the years since then, not only has the field of health care expanded, but the requirements regulating it have increased. Realizing that health care supply chains require a special type of expertise and adherence to strict licensing and compliance criteria, DSC focused on developing those skills and acquiring the necessary licenses and certifications.

Combining operations excellence and strategic knowledge
Between 2005 and 2010, DSC expanded capabilities and strengthened intellectual capital to address increasingly complex needs of customers. At the head of the management team, Ann Drake has been recognized as a forward-thinking leader in the business community, being named as a “Rainmaker” by DC Velocity magazine, a “Pro to Know” by Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine, and as “2009 Industry Leader of the Year” by the Illinois Institute of Technology. She also takes an active role in efforts to strengthen Chicago and the Great Lakes Megaregion as a center of commerce.

The transformation of DSC from a logistics provider to a supply chain partner continues. One of the key areas that supports DSC’s thought leadership is network modeling – the ability to analyze and optimize supply chain networks. Modeling enables DSC and customers to consider alternative scenarios and determine the optimum solution and is a particularly important facet of managing transportation that is efficient and sustainable.

In 2009, in the area of sustainability, DSC raised our level of commitment to environmentally sound programs and practices with the designation of a Director of Sustainability, the creation of a Sustainability Steering Committee and a Sustainability Statement of Purpose, and the launch of network-wide initiatives. Through our 2009 Founder’s Day, based on the theme “We Think Greener,” DSC involved more than 2000 employees in a campaign to heighten sustainability awareness and action. In the area of transportation, DSC qualified for the Smartway Transport Partnership, a program designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce emmisions.

Also in 2009, DSC added a new dimension to the role of strategic supply chain partner by being named Lead Logistics Partner (LLP) by three global companies. As Lead Logistics Partner, we manage the entire supply chain, from manufacturer to consumer – in some cases, extending back to raw materials and when appropriate, managing other 3PLs.

DSC’s transformation from warehousing company to strategic supply chain partner is based on six key strengths – Leadership, Collaboration, Information, Execution, Flexibility, and Integrity. Although so much about DSC has changed, one element remains the same: our commitment to the principle of meeting customers ever-changing needs. And that makes us ready for anything!